Posts tagged ‘Snow’

January 9, 2011

A wild camp in unexpected snow – winter rages on

by backpackingbongos

The backpacking count is going well so far this year.  Weekend number two and backpack number two.

Last night was spent once again on the Pennine moors, except this time the weather was less benign.  Gale force winds and heavy snow gave rather difficult camping conditions.  It is years since I last wild camped in proper deep snow.  It is good fun until in the morning you try to remove pegs frozen solid into the ground, then stuff  flapping nylon into a small stuff sack with really cold hands.  At least we had a snug little bothy to while away the evening by a blazing fire and somewhere to cook breakfast and pack properly out of the wind.

As usual a full trip report later on in the week.

Worryingly backpack number three is planned for next weekend…………..

May 17, 2010

A snowy Southern Upland Way circuit from Wanlockhead

by backpackingbongos

The day before had been a bit of a wash out except that it was not rain that had kept me indoors, it had been a huge dumping of snow.  I had spent that day mostly standing at the window watching gale force winds blow curtains of snow across the valley.  An attempt at a walk had to be abandoned on the moors above the cottage as the deep snow made going a bit too tiring.  Thankfully today there was the promise of clear skies and a spot of sunshine, a cause to celebrate.  However the van was still firmly stuck as to get to the now cleared road involved a couple of hundred metres of deep wet snow.  The snow plough passing our track had also been kind enough to deposit a huge mound of the stuff at the entrance.  A quick route was devised that would start and finish without mechanical means.

9.1 miles with 560 metres ascent

The neighbours a couple of doors down were busy with snow shovels when I passed, having cleared a large amount of snow already.  They agreed to leave them out for when I got back to enable me to dig out the van.  It seemed like the entire village was out that morning with bright orange snow shovels, clearing driveways and digging out cars.  I would imagine that they are used to snow here high up in the southern uplands.  My route descended to the lower part of the village where I took the unclassified lane that leads down Wanlockhead water.  This part of the village felt a lot less bleak than that higher up, possibly due to being more enclosed in a valley.  The drop in height meant that there was a little less snow and the snow free road gave swift progress.  The views back up towards Wanlockhead and the high snow covered hills was stunning, especially with the combination of sun and cloud.

It was great to finally feel the warmth of the sun on my face, made much more pleasant by the lack of a breeze.  I yomped further and further down the valley with the road finally giving way to a track.  It was the first day in April and the sun was warm enough to ensure a rapid thawing of the snow.  The track starts climbing towards the derelict cottage of Duntercleuch with its view of the rounded hills on the other side of the valley.

I passed two parked up 4 wheel drive vehicles full of hunting paraphernalia, dead crows and rabbits.  Quad bike tracks led up the forestry track that I was following so I assume the owners were out doing gamekeeper type things.  Once again I was pleased to be following in the tracks of a quad bike to make progress much easier.  I was soon surrounded by dense conifers giving a completely different atmosphere to the wide open spaces.  I have to admit that I found this part of the day a bit of a chore with the usual restricted views and sterility.  Unfortunately the quad bike tracks soon deserted me and I had to plough on through unbroken virgin snow.

Then suddenly there was a gap in the forest and I could see for miles, endless rolling hills disappearing into the distance.

I once again found myself on the lee side of the hill, the track being covered in deep drifts, luckily the sun had got to work on the shallower sections.

A couple of hefty snow showers passed over whilst I was eating lunch, the snow being like that polystyrene that is used to pack boxes.  It was great to watch curtains of white appear in the distance and get closer and closer, dump its goods on you and then be followed by clear blue skies.  I was soon on my way climbing towards Highmill Knowe.  The skyscape was stunning, a combination of winter blue skies and bubbling white clouds.

I soon joined the Southern Upland way again as it descended back down into the valley of Wanlockhead Water.  Wet melting snow and tussock grass defeated the waterproof lining of my boots and made slow difficult going.

Sitting on the bridge over the river finishing my coffee and eating the last of my lunch it felt that spring was on its way.  I found a different track back into Wanlockhead, this time passing through the mine workings for which the village is well know.  This included a spoil tip that is shaped like the Matterhorn, a great pyramid that defies gravity.  How did they get it into that shape?  The final few hundred metres back into the village still make you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.  Wanlockhead is certainly a wild place.

March 11, 2010

A good example of why you should not leave your crampons at home!

by backpackingbongos

We woke up on Sunday to clear blue skies after a penetrating frost.  The day before had been fairly mild and the snow on the ground had started to melt, the freeze making it as hard as iron.  Our route involved traversing Moelwyn Mawr so that we could climb it from ’round the back’.  Large patches of snow remained that were unavoidable on its steep slopes, however we were lucky to have a wall to stop ourselves sliding into oblivion.  Crampons would definately have made progress easier than doing the bum shuffle………………….

February 6, 2010

Beaten by the Berwyns – Godor & Moel yr Ewig

by backpackingbongos

The moral of this story is going to run along the lines of, “Don’t park your campervan at the furthest end of a hilly campsite if there is a risk of snow”.  It got a bit messy trying to get home.

Anyway after my equine visit the previous night I had one of those sleeps which only seem possible when out and about in good old fashioned fresh air.  Maybe it was the luxury of Fat Airic or was it two nice big pillows or even those two cosy sleeping bags?  Comfy and toasty is the way to go in midwinter.

I awoke to leaden skies and the odd flake of snow and spent a good while faffing about drinking coffee and getting ready.  All of a sudden the world outside became monochrome as a mini blizzard swept down off of the mountains, big fat snow flakes covering everything.  Within an hour there was a good dumping of fresh white stuff and I was ready to explore.

8.8 miles with 640 metres of ascent

The blanket of snow seemed to have silenced the world and there was not a breath of wind as I headed down the valley.  The snow had a perfect squeak to it and was not deep enough to slow progress.

As I walked through the farm-yard of Tan-y-graig I turned around to keep a careful eye on the barking dogs and stepped on a section of snow covered clear ice.  I was on my back in a split second, the wind knocked out of me.  It’s amazing how quickly you can fall over.  A bridleway leads north from the lane and climbs steadily towards the abandoned farm of Gwern-feilod.  The world again quickly vanished as a wall of white washed over me, the snow coming down thick and fast.  The farmhouse was a sad shell so shelter was sought in the pine forest above for an early lunch and to make a decision what to do next.  Visibility would be down to nothing up in the snow filled clouds.  However luck was on my side as just soon after coffee and food were finished the clouds parted and the sun made an appearance.

I slowly made my way up towards the summit of Godor, threading my way between gates as I was outside of the access area.  At one point I could simply walk over a fence as a huge drift had covered it.

The clearing air gave great views to the lower hills and the Midland plains to the east.

As the unmarked summit of Godor was reached the wind was blowing ,with the ground being a moving mass of spindrift.  Broken clouds were racing past giving the impression of being on a much higher hill.

Ahead of me now the clouds were beginning to build and cover the large empty uplands, miles of snow covered grassy tussocks.  What would have been a friendly landscape yesterday in the sunshine and crystal clear air began to take on a more threatening air.

As I passed Godors north west top the snow started again and visibility did not extend further than a hundred metres.  My field of view was mostly of the inside of my hood and of the ground as wind blasted icy crystals stung my eyes.  Luckily I had a wire fence to follow and for some reason there was a corridor of old rock hard snow following it.  What would normally be slimy peaty dips along the fence were filled in by old snow and often just the top of the fence posts would be sticking out.  I was soon on the 695m summit of Moel yr Ewig where I decided against continuing up to the summit of Cadair Berwyn.  I descended and soon Llyn Lluncaws came into view.

Deep snow covered heather made the short walk to the lake difficult with ankle twisting holes being well hidden, it was more of a lurch than a walk!  The lake itself was mostly frozen and the outflow stream quickly disappeared under a huge snow bridge.

I located another line of rock hard old snow and followed it downstream to where I could pick up a track.  As the snow cleared views came back and in front of me were the impressive cliffs of Craig y Mwn.

As I got closer to the valley bottom I stood and watched figures descending from the top of the waterfall.  It looked to be slow and difficult going over the snow covered icy track I had walked up yesterday.  The clearing air and setting sun gave a great pinkish glow to the cold frozen valley.

I got back to the snow bound Bongo and started to worry about how I was going to get it out the next morning.  I paced the route out to the worryingly snowy road a couple of times trying to find the best line.  Nothing much that I could do about it tonight!

I had another relaxed evening inside the van enjoying the peace and quiet of my location.  Just after dark the owner of the campsite came knocking to see if I was ok and to share some of his flapjacks he had baked that day.  I wish that I had got the recipe as they were amazing.  I raised my concerns about getting out, but he reassured me he would tow me out by mini tractor if I got stuck.

I slept for 13 hours that night, waking to find that the route I had marked to get the van out covered by fresh snow.  All packed up and I did manage to get the van further than I thought before gravity and an icy patch brought me to a halt.  There then followed a good hour involving a mini tractor, a rope and a Bongo.  The tractor struggled at one point which worried me.  But after a bit of distance arm waving between tractor and Bongo I was soon driving down a very narrow lane on virgin snow, never done that before and it was great.

The strange thing is that once out of the valley 3 miles away at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant there was hardly any snow.  It had not been forecast anyway…………………

January 3, 2010

Snowy Black Mountain Panoramas

by backpackingbongos

Happy New Year everyone!

We got back yesterday evening after spending the New Year in the Black Mountains.  A great time was had by all and the scenery was stunning under a huge dumping of snow.  I found out that the Bongo does not like steep snowy tracks and a fair bit of time was spent with shovel in hand!  A trip report in the next few days but in the meantime here are some ‘Panorama’ shots created by stitching several photos together.

Our remote home in the forest for a couple of nights, no road or electricity.  Bliss.

The next couple of photos were taken on the track just below the Crug Mawr, Pen Y Gadair Fawr ridge.

A 360 degree panorama shot taken from the summit of Pen Y Gadair Fawr.

The next couple of photos were taken just below the summit of Pen Y Gadair Fawr, with the sun beginning to set I had a long way still to go!